The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2018

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january/february 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  71 january-february 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  71 diluted with water; both are legitimate production methods, but Galsworthy insists their approach "gives a smoother, more rounded mouthfeel." "We simply feel it's the right way to do it," he adds. Along with its gin, Sipsmith also originally produced vodka, a sloe gin, and its mighty V.J.O.P. Gin (that's Very Juniper Over Proof, and the name tells you exactly what to expect—a 57% ABV/114-proof gin that simply explodes with juniper). Vodka has diminished in importance for Sipsmith, however, and the brand has built its name and considerable reputation on the London Dry Gin and its variations. Despite purchasing a second, larger still, Sipsmith had outgrown its original premises within five years and moved to Chiswick, another London village. The distillery can be found there today, in a modest, light indus- trial building sandwiched amongst a row of terraced houses. That move was a function of success: Sales had grown so fast that a third still was required to keep up with demand, and there was simply no room for further expansion in the first distillery. Today, sales continue to boom. Galsworthy is coy on precise numbers, but trade reports suggest Sipsmith's growth has exceeded 50 percent annually for the past three years. Meanwhile, a fourth still, also by CARL, has just been commissioned, speaking to Galsworthy's ambition to found a brand that "will be around in 200 years' time." A "GUIDING LIGHT" FOR GIN CONSUMERS Sipsmith first entered the U.S. market with a soft launch in San Francisco in 2013. The approach was deliberately lowkey; though understated in a typically British way, word of the gin's quality soon spread amongst leading mixologists, and it rapidly became a fixture at the top bars in key cities and major U.S. markets. With that solid base and growing reputation to build upon, the new still will certainly be needed as the brand's expansion in the U.S. is supported by the company's new majority owner Beam Suntory. The Japanese company purchased a controlling share in Sipsmith in December 2016, but thus far the original founders remain in place; the brand is still controlled from London and global expansion is firmly in line with the original vision. "We aim to be the guiding light for the consumer in gin," says Galsworthy, noting that the Sipsmith product remains true to a traditional style of juniper-led gin made in small batches, and always in London. Yet the company has hardly shied away from innovation, offering experimental micro-distilled gins to their Sipping Society members (a quarterly subscription service that has delivered such delights to members as Strawberries & Cream Gin Liqueur; Hot Cross Bun Gin; Cherry & Cacao Gin Liqueur; and spicy Peter Piper Gin). Some of these trials trickle down from the fortunate membership to the general market. One example—hope- fully available in the U.S. soon—is the delicious Lemon Drizzle Gin, which would join London Dry, V.J.O.P., and Sloe Gin in the stateside brand lineup. Sipsmith broke the mould for U.K. craft distilling, and in the wake of their launch, nearly 100 small distilleries now operate in Britain. While many have gone on to push the boundaries of gin's flavour profile with strange and wonderful combinations of botanicals, it's true to say most would never have existed without Hall and Galsworthy's irreverent challenge to two centuries of orthodoxy. Aspirant distillers still visit the distill- ery as if on a pilgrimage, unwittingly acknowledging Sipsmith's leadership in the craft movement. But, challenged to assess the impact of these new entrants, Galsworthy is sanguine. "The consumer can be paralysed by choice," he claims, adding that "while there will be a shakeout, the classics we hope will likely survive, and that is why we believe we'll be around for a long while yet." That single-minded objective has distinguished Sipsmith from its very conception. No one sells their house unless they're very sure of their purpose, and fortunately this particular gamble paid off spectacularly for Hall and Galsworthy. With some 30 percent of output destined for export, overseas demand is "growing like billy-o" in the U.S., Australia, and northern Europe, as well as Japan. The Beam Suntory powerhouse can only turbo- charge this growth, and the U.S. is central to those ambitions. "We have worked tirelessly to share our gin of the highest quality with discerning sippers," says Galsworthy. "In this new chapter, we have found the perfect partners to take Sipsmith to all four corners of the globe." You can expect to hear much more from these revolutionary Brits. Sales proved to be so popular for Sipsmith's gin that the company now has three stills at its distillery in Chiswick. PHOTO COURTESY OF SIPSMITH

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